One night, I was scrolling through a university website, looking through postgraduate courses that I’m interested in taking in the future. I paused when my attention was caught by the ‘tuition fee’ section, gawking at it as it led me to ponder whether universities should continue to be funded?
But first, we have to distinguish why we pay for our universities. According to Barr, N. (2003), he suggested that higher education should be funded because it “helps the society.” The fees allow the universities to build better facilities for students and staff, and more funds also mean that they can offer generous salaries to attract a higher calibre of lecturers. Moreover, he also added that universities could use this money to research and help the country to develop.
Sure, there are significant factors that can help society, as stated above; however, there are also intelligent and hardworking students who are poor. Thus, having difficulty supporting their families. This leads us to our question: if they struggle to help pay household bills, how can they pay university fees?
Working to pay for education
Yes, they can apply for part-time jobs, however, this can result in students facing other issues such as induced stress and a distraction from their studies. Besides, others query if students should be in a position whereby they have to take part-time jobs when ultimately, they are studying to become doctors, teachers, or scientists? The flipside of that argument is that part-time jobs are beneficial as it provides not only real-life experiences, but financial independence that, if not used for fees, could be used for travel or to support their family.
Furthermore, the government also ensures that they don’t need part-time jobs because student loans can help them as it covers all tuition fees, accommodation, and other living costs. But as stated by Pettinger, T. (2007), student loans can be a disincentive particularly to students who come from a lower socio-economic background. It is likely that those who are poor deterred from applying to universities due to the fear of debt, thus limiting opportunities for young people, especially from low-income backgrounds. Though by 2015, there was a rise in numbers of students attending universities, including those from poorer backgrounds, however, Pettinger counterargues that there are some students that couldn’t find or secure good jobs after graduation, thus having difficulties into repaying their loans. Some students were even taking lower paid jobs after graduation intentionally to avoid the threshold of repayments.
Last year, the world plunged into a spiral of dismay due to Covid-19. Students, in particularly international students were highly impacted by the effects of the pandemic. According to Bulman, M. (2020), international students had to choose between eating meals and paying their tuition fees. A lot of international students, like many others, were dismissed from part-time jobs. However, international students are at greater disadvantage as majority of them hold student visas and those visas co-operate with the universities, therefore, if they couldn’t pay the international student fee upfront or if they miss an instalment; not only will they be withdrawn from their courses, but it would also put them in a ‘precarious immigration situation.’ This would not have been the case if tuition fees were abolished.
Shouldn’t Knowledge should be priceless?
In conclusion, there are positives and negatives for students paying tuition fees. If universities were to be free, it would reduce the amount of student debt, everyone would have an equal chance and theoretically a higher educated population would be advantageous to society. However the drawbacks of this is that there would be financial irresponsibility because when students carry debt, they can learn financial responsibility. Free universities could also devalue the worth of a degree, some students may not take it seriously and attend just because. Lastly, it’s likely that there would be overcrowding and understaffing perhaps lowering the standard of graduates.
I strongly believe that with all things considered that universities should be free. If not free then at the very least the fees should be reduced. Even if that’s by way of subsidiaries such as bursary’s, grants and scholarships. After all the pursuit of knowledge should always be obtainable and endless, regardless of age, race, and financial status.